Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Motion Picture Inside Our Head

Reading a good story is like watching a good movie. Watching a lousy movie is like reading a lousy story.

Ketika seorang penulis menyusun sebuah cerita, sesungguhnya di kepalanya sedang bergerak sebuah film. Seorang penulis mengambil seluruh peran yang ada sekaligus. Dia menjadi produser, sutradara, penulis skrip, editor, penata artistik, penata musik, termasuk menentukan siapa-siapa saja yang akan menjadi pemain. It’s not an easy job. You don’t have other people’s perspectives to freshen up your objectivity. But you also save yourself from a lot of hassle, for you don’t have to argue with anybody else except yourself.

Langkah awal yang amat penting adalah, tentukan ke mana arah film di kepala kita itu, maksud dan tujuannya, serta gaya apa yang ingin diadopsi. Film ABG, dewasa, komedi, action, thriller, horor, dsb. Lalu style apa yang ingin dipakai? Sinetron-ish (black and white—baik sekali atau jahat sekali, deskripsi cenderung lewat dialog ketimbang suasana), Korean-ish/Japanese-ish (gray characters—nobody’s too good and nobody’s too bad either, deskripsi cenderung lewat suasana ketimbang dialog), Telenovela-ish (almost like Sinetron-ish, but they wear better make-ups), India-ish (glorify the love scenes, baby!), dsb.

Kadang, apa yang kita pilih dan kita suka tidak konsisten dengan apa yang kita tulis. We didn’t do it on purpose, of course. But sometimes we got carried away with our own hard effort to convince our readers. We may also be subconsciously influenced by those soapy, overrated scenes from the sinetrons we loathe but we couldn’t help to watch. Or we simply haven’t had sharp enough senses to create a balance between direct-verbal dialogue with indirect-nonverbal description. In real life, some things are better left unspoken, silence is sometimes louder than words, and these nonverbal expressions can be so powerful once they’re successfully delivered in our story.

Saya membongkar materi lama saya, dan menyadari begitu banyak perbaikan yang harus saya lakukan. I’m pro with Korean-ish/Japanese-ish all the way, and I think that was also my intention eleven years ago when I first wrote “Kugy & Keenan”. But when I reread it now, I realize there are many incoherencies between the style I’d intend to adapt with how I actually wrote the story. Many dialogues were just too emotional, too explosive, too outspoken. Some scenes are just too India-ish (e.g., hopping on a train together and landed in each other’s arms incidentally. Gosh. I know it’s a classic, and it works like wonder for squeezing your reader’s heart, but… come on!) And, man, there were so many cliches and predictabilities.

Reviewing our characters is also a very, VERY, important step. Untuk masalah yang satu ini pun saya merasa harus banyak melakukan perbaikan. There’s a saying: human is a creature of habit. It is true. We all have unique, particular habits that signify who we are. Same thing with our characters. Saya baru menyadari kekuatan faktor kebiasaan dalam pembentukan karakter. Meski tampaknya sepele, tapi dampaknya luar biasa. Karakter kita mendadak menjadi lebih hidup, lebih believable, dan lebih… manusiawi. For instance, Kugy penyuka musik tahun ’80, lagu favoritnya Karma Chameleon, dan pola ini harus dimunculkan secara periodikal dan konsisten sepanjang cerita. Lalu mereka punya tempat langganan, satu warung nasi bernama Pemadam Kelaparan. I didn’t have it before, but adding this ‘habitual place’ again brings my characters more down to earth. Bagi saya, pemilihan dan penataan karakter harus seperti membuat gado-gado. It’s a jumble of veggies soaked in peanut sauce, tapi dalam setiap suapannya kita bisa tahu persis apa saja yang masuk ke dalam mulut kita. We can taste each different element even though they are crammed together. Just like characters crammed together in the same story, but we can tell the unique traits of each one of them.

Creating a gray character is quite tricky too. It’s so much easier to create the black and white ones. First of all, we have hundreds of references of the black and whites. Just turn on our local TV, any channel, and there you go. Just copy and paste any character in our sinetrons, you’ll have the best black and whites. No rocket science required. Karakter abu-abu membutuhkan lebih banyak pemikiran dan perenungan. You have to combine traits (some ‘bad’, some ‘good’), seperti mbok jamu yang meramu unsur pahit dan manis menjadi minuman yang cenderung pahit atau cenderung manis. You have to consider background and initial motivation of your character. In real life, kebanyakan ‘orang jahat’ adalah akibat dari kegagalan sistem, yang mengakibatkan orang harus merampok atau korupsi. Kebanyakan ‘orang kejam’ adalah akibat masa kecil yang represif, dsb. Essentially, people got bad or good out of a reason. In building gray characters, you have to take all that into consideration and able to reveal it in your story. Black and whites don’t need much of it. In black and white world, some people are born bad and good, and that’s the end of the story. We’d like to believe that, for it is an easier truth to digest, but realistically that’s not the case.

So, those are my real homework. Saya bersyukur mendapat kesempatan beberapa kali menjadi juri lomba penulisan. Believe me, switching our position from a writer to a jury can totally change our perspective. Suddenly I can capture my own mistake, my own weakness, mirrored in the stacks of manuscripts I have to read and give score to. Now I must say, I believe that one can tell a good story only from its first paragraph. Sounds scary but true. If you don’t captivate your reader from the very beginning, it is so unlikely you’ll be able to captivate them at all.

I guess I'm also trying to remind myself here about that motion picture inside my head. I gotta love watching it myself. May it be a blockbuster material or award-winning material or both... it just has to win my own heart and soul, otherwise... don't bother.


PS. My other homework is to shop for my headquarter. I know, I know, I meant to do it since days ago. But Bandung’s traffic is just… unbelievable. When will you Jakartans return home? We want our road back.

7 comments:

  1. pfffhh... ternyata so many things to think ya..
    Kupikir writing itu rather easy, just this and that.. Waahhh.

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  2. Aku sebenernya lebih setuju bahwa dalam kehidupan banyak orang hidup dengan grey character. Mereka bertindak menjadi jahat atau buruk dipengaruhi oleh kondisi yang terjadi. Tapi yah tetap adja setiap manusia masing masing punya "habit"/ kebiasaan dalam menanggapi peristiwa yang datang padanya. Dan habit ini terbentuk melalui kehidupannya. Seorang yang sangat jahat kadang bisa menjadi baik dalam satu peristiwa. So, saya harap tokohnya Mbak Dewi bener bener "human", tidak jahat...jahat sekaliiii ( kayak di sinetron, anak smp bisa mikir mau bunuh temennya :) ) ; nggak baek baek sekaliiiiii...kayak malaikat :);

    Note : Mbak Dewi sering pakai perekam juga pas lagi menulis ?

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  3. Saya kira uda dimulai project ny Kak Dee ^^

    Can't wait to read ur journey on this project, fighting! ^^

    -Melly-

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  4. Mudah2an bisa mulai besok. Besok supir saya sudah kembali kerja, jadi lebih leluasa untuk melaksanakan segala sesuatu, termasuk pindahan ke headquarter :)

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  5. Yep. Totally agree with Wira, semua orang yang saya temui dalam hidup, setidaknya sejauh ini, adalah tokoh abu-abu, and I guess that's the realistic and humane human.

    Saya nggak pakai perekam saat menulis, kecuali saat mewawancarai narasumber. Biasanya saya langsung hajar di komputer, paling banter pakai tambahan corat-coret dengan kertas dan pulpen. Konon katanya pakai perekam lebih cepat, but I don't quite resonate with that method. Cocok2an kali ye.

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  6. Talk about abu-abu!!!
    Mr. Dumbledore...

    tokoh yang 'putih' abis ini.. ternyata punya unsur 'hitam' juga... ("All for the greater good")
    i know it sounds cheesy but I LOVE HARRY POTTER, Rowling is such a good author!
    (ayo pd mulai baca ya)

    P.S: uda pada tau kan kalo Dumbledore is a gay??
    and coba baca short story 'Just Lather, That's All' by Hernando Tellez... I love Capt. Torres, or should I say, I feel sorry for him???
    gara2 dia jadi 'perang mulut' sama guru inggris ku, d...
    huh~

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  7. Irma (siluetkucing@gmail.com)February 19, 2008 at 12:43 AM

    I'm with you 100%. Di dunia ini ga ada yang 100% hitam, ato putih. Bahkan orang2 yang paling baik sekalipun harus make the hardest decisions sometimes.

    Makanya saya suka karakter2 'abu-abu'. Mungkin istilahnya, karakter yang hidup itu harus 'berlayer-layer'. Seperti dalam akting, ga bisa cuma express satu emosi tok, it's unnatural, karna manusia seringkali yang dirasa bisa beda dengan yang tengah dipikir bisa beda dengan yang mereka tunjukkan ke orang lain. Layered.

    Makanya juga saya suka Diva (Supernova's character, not the sinetron), Bodhi, dan karakter2 Mbak Dee lainnya. I have the hardest time nerangin karakter Diva ke temen2ku yang ga baca Supernova. I mean, a hooker, bad by definition. But Diva... is... is... Don't you love it when it needs more than a sentence to explain a character? ;)

    Beda dengan sinetron, sudah ada 'template'nya, misalnya: Ibu tiri jahat (3 kata); Nenek sihir jahat (3 kata); Ibu tiri jahat yang selalu pake bulu mata palsu plus maskara ketebelan (satu kalimat); dst...

    --------------

    Ini out of topic, tapi...

    Jadi begini, Mbak Dee... Saya mahasiswa jurusan Desain Komunikasi Visual, mau tugas akhir. Apart from being a designer also a long time Dee admirer (one of the many whose life's changed by Supernova). Punya rencana ingin sekali Tugas Akhirnya mendesain buku kumpulan puisi. Mbak Dee ada rencana puisi2nya dibukukan? Just an idea, Mbak... Kalau boleh, dijadikan case Tugas Akhir saya, I'd be very thankful... Email saya: siluetkucing@gmail.com.

    Trimakasih :)

    (Maap Mbak, stalkingnya lewat blog. Abis ga tau gimana caranya ngubungin Mbak Dee langsung ^^; But if I could convince you of anything, I believe in both words and visuals as powerful stuff. Suer.)

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